This review was submitted over 4 years ago, so some of the information it contains may no longer be relevant.
I was given a lot of responsibility and a real experience of what it would be like on the Unilever Future Leaders Programme. I enjoyed the amount of work I was given and contributed to on-going projects at Unilever, as well as being able to do some project management. The support available to me was really good and I never felt out of my depth despite being involved in 3 projects.
I was welcomed straight away into the company and everyone I met throughout my placement was more than happy to provide the support I needed. I was treated as an equal with higher level members of the team and felt comfortable contributing my ideas to the team meetings, as I knew it would be taken into account seriously.
My line manager always set aside weekly time to catch up with me on my placement and provide support where needed. The team leaders also set aside time to introduce the projects to me and ensure I have a wide understanding of the projects, as well as introducing me to other members of the team to provide guidance during my time there.
I was given my on experiments to conduct within each project and also had a variety of experiences during my time there (ie. it wasn't purely research but also plenty of team meetings to discuss work updates, having to plan the logistics for each experiment and gain a wider commercial understanding of the projects). My time was balanced between experiments, emails, meetings, planning for experiments/processes and writing up reports.
I was given a lot of responsibility! I was in charge of my own experiments within each project meaning I was developing new methods for the team to use and having to teach other team members about it. I was also put in charge of managing a project and putting my own team together to complete the tasks given to me.
I would say most of the skills I picked up are transferable skills which will be useful for me when I enter the working world. For example, I learnt a lot about managing projects and having to lead a team which taught me a lot about myself too. It helped me to develop my professionalism in the workplace, confidence in myself and I learnt more about what it's like working for a commercial business rather than just research. While I strengthened my scientific skills, I feel that the soft skills I picked up were invaluable and only happened because I was given the chance to develop these myself in the workplace.
The office was a lovely place to work in: very professional when it needed to be and generally quiet making it easy to work in, but also people were always happy to have a chat and ask you about your day. It was common to join groups for tea breaks or even ice-cream breaks (another bonus of working at Unilever!) so even if work was quite stressful, there were always people to chat to and have a break with.
My line manager contacted me in plenty of time before my start date and organised a chat with me to give me a general overview of the projects I would be working on before I started, allowing me to prepare myself. When I arrived my first week was planned out for me with lots of trainings and meetings so I would be able to gain a good understanding of the business and the projects I'd be working on, as well as meeting people from the office. My buddy helped me a lot in terms of the less formal things like the dress code and the working culture of Unilever, as well as providing lots of information on the Standards of Leadership and more specific information to do with the UFLP. I always had someone to go to for any problem I had. The only issue was as a temporary and summer student, I had some difficulty logging into the internal learning hub which most permanent employees had access to however this wasn't a major problem.
I was given the same opportunities in going to workshops or sessions as other employees had on training in specific areas of research. The UFLP grad students also set up a lot of workshops in order to help us with various things (eg. finance, using IT for business, wellbeing). I felt like a part of the company from the start and given plenty of chances to improve on my personal development as well as from a business aspect. If I wanted to develop a particular skill (ie. presentation skills) then I was encouraged to improve on that by giving an office presentation as well as team presentations.
Sports and Social Club
Staff Sales/Staff Shop
It's definitely a competitive scheme and due to recent news (Brexit, failed Krafft takeover) this means it will be more competitive in the future to gain a place on the UFLP, however I think Unilever definitely invests in the students and does all they can to help you get a place onto the graduate scheme if we wanted to. For a summer student, you need to still complete an assessment centre so it involves a quite a few hurdles in getting the job offer!
I worked in an office which had a lot of new starters joining around the same time I did, of a similar age, so it was quite easy to organise social events with other people. I enjoyed the social aspect of Unilever as my colleagues were happy to socialise outside of work too, and there were usually quite a few larger events planned too!
I worked in the Colworth office where the main living/social scene is Bedford. Bedford is a small town but is fairly cheap especially when compared to a city! Cost of accommodation is slightly higher than what you'd expect for a small town.
Bedford is fairly small so the nightlife won't be amazing when compared to a city nightlife, however there's plenty of pubs and a few clubs. People are always happy to go to the pub for a few hours after work which is nice, and is a fairly chilled nightlife. However London is 45 mins away if a lively nightlife is what you want!
There's a lot of clubs which are organised by Unilever employees on site which you can get involved in easily (eg. sports clubs like football, cricket, yoga) as well as on-site gym classes, these range from more serious training sessions to casual kick-arounds at lunctime. There's also things to get involved in within Bedford.
Internship (1-4 Months)